Ancestry UK

Friendless Girls' Home, Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

The Industrial Home for Friendless Girls, also known as the Friendless Girls' Home, was opened in June 1865 at Upper Ann Street, Greenock, Renfrewshire. It was established by the Society for the Reclaiming of Fallen Women 'to rescue from falling into vicious habits, friendless girls, from 12 to 16 years of age.' The inmates were trained in the for domestic service and also instructed in reading writing, arithmetic, sewing, etc. After obtaining situations for the girls, the Society continued to take an interest in them. The Home was supported by voluntary subscriptions, and by washing and dressing done at the institution.

In 1872, the Home moved to new premises at 24 Mount Pleasant Street. In 1881, Janet Muir was matron, with 26 inmates in her charge ranging in age from 7 to 16 years.

Another move came in October 1887 after the Mount Pleasant Street premises were bought by the School Board. A new building was then erected at 21 Brachelston Street.

In January 1890, a report on the Home, now referred to as the Training Home for Friendless Girls, recorded that the number of inmates was now 20. During the previous year there had been 11 new admissions. Over the same period, three had gone into service, two had returned to friends, one had left of her own accord, one had been removed by the Parochial authorities, and one had died. A member of committee, appointed for the purpose, visited those in situations in town, while another member wrote to those settled elsewhere, and contact was kept with the girls for at least two years after they leave the Home. Of the twenty girls then present in the Home, ten were under thirteen years of age, and therefore attended school. The preparation of their lessons in the evening was superintended by the matron. The others are taught both house and laundry work, in preparation for becoming domestic servants. In May 1889, Miss Watson, who for four years had held the post of matron, resigned because of indifferent health and had been succeeded by Miss Birrell. In 1888, an income of £165 had been generated by the laundry, a decrease of £70 over the previous year. The reduction was due to the increase in the number of younger girls in the Home, who did not participate in the laundry work. The subscriptions to the Home during the past year had been £87.

In around 1895, Miss Birrell was succeeded as matron by Miss Agnes G. Stirling.

On 23 December 1896, the Home was formally certified to operate as an Industrial School, accommodating up to 30 girls. A week later, the 28 inmates of the girls' section of the Greenock Industrial School were transferred to the Brachelston Street premises. The establishment continued to be known as the Friendless Girls' Home and Miss Stirling remained as matron of the institution. Miss Christina Stirling was assistant matron, and Miss Tyre was schoolmistress.

An inspection of the Home in 1897 described it as 'a cheerful house with all the appearance of a private residence' but lacking in a schoolroom. There was a small green at the back of the building, and a large public recreation ground in front, of which use was made every day. On fine Saturday afternoons, the girls were taken for a long walk in the open country. Once a month the girls were allowed, if their conduct had been good, to visit their friends. They were sent out freely on messages matters in connection with the laundry. Special lessons in cookery were given to the older girls by the superintendent. In the laundry there was plenty of fine and high-class work, as well as good rough washing. The needlework and knitting, including a number of finished garments, were praised.

In 1898, a new wing was added to the building, increasing its capacity to 38 places. A further increase, to 40 places, was sanctioned in 1902.

The Home site is shown on the 1912 map below.

Friendless Girls' Home / Greenock Girls' Home site, Greenock, c.1912.

The 1910 inspection recorded that there were 40 girls in the Home, no voluntary cases, four out on licence, and no absconders. Classroom performance in singing (sol-fa, and staff notation), composition, mental arithmetic, geography and domestic economy was generally rated as 'good', and recitation as 'very fair'. History readers were used by every class. In the needlework room, the girls showed well in cutting out and machining, but darning by the younger girls was not as good as in previous years. Cookery was taught regularly by the assistant matron. In the laundry, the clothes were beautifully white and some good ironing was done. Swedish drill was taught by the schoolmistress, under the directions of two qualified teachers whose services were voluntary. The usual fortnight's holiday had been spent at Bute in the summer.

In 1933, the establishment became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. Now know as Greenock Girls' Home, the establishment accommodated up to 30 girls, aged under the age of 12 years at their date of admission.

During the Second World War, the school was evacuated to Achalader House, Blairgowrie, Perthshire. In 1943, the children received instruction in cookery, needlework and housework. The headmistress was now Mrs D. Gordon Clark.

In the mid-1960s, the premises become a children's home known as Caladh House, then later provided care for adults with special needs. In 2009, the charity, now known as the Caladh House Association, relocated to Bank Street, Greenock. The Brachelston Street building was then sold. In 2013, the Caladh House Association was taken over by Turning Point Scotland.


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